Thursday, 7 March 2013

Sad news for Lake Farm, but the fight will go on

On Tuesday night, the 5th of March, a meeting took place at the Civic Centre in Uxbridge, to determine whether the proposed school was to be built on 3 acres of land in the east corner of Lake Farm. The Council issued the date of the special planning committee meeting at such short notice, that several followers of Save Lake Farm could not attend, and others weren't even aware of it until the following day. To add insult to injury, none of the members of the (mainly Conservative) Planning Committee even live in the Hayes area. The decision to build the school was given the go-ahead, after over an hour of heated debate between the committee and the campaigners. Unless this decision can be over turned, the building works could start as early as this May.

A friend of mine who was at the meeting described it as 'chaotic'. She says, and I quote... 'two councillors on the meeting came up with a bona fide reason to defer the decision, this was ignored, which might be grounds for the Mayor to intervene. Also a report was used to make the decision, that has not been made public before'.

John McDonnell, the local Labour MP, also says on his website 'The Planning meeting degenerated into near chaos as information contained in the Council's reports recommending the development was comprehensively challenged by local residents and local Labour councillors'

The local Gazette adds 'after an hour of fraught debate between campaigners and council planners, when it looked like the decision could be deferred to a later date, the Conservative majority of planning committee members hurriedly rubber stamped the application, bringing to an end to the latest chapter in what has become an increasingly political line in the sand'.

In the beginning there were 26 sites considered for the school. This included expanding two other schools, Guru Nanak and Rosedale Primary, both of which are within the same catchment area. Another site taken into consideration were the grounds of the now demolished Hayes Swimming Pool. The area there is large enough to accommodate a new 2 form of entry school and is situated just five minutes from Lake Farm. So why destroy an area of Lake Farm Country Park when there are such suitable sites nearby ? Lake Farm is the only 'patch of green' Hayes has.

The Hillingdon Borough Council finally published its Ecological Update Report last month, and Ive been going through it. The survey had to be done to establish whether there were any signs of badgers, bats or reptiles, rare plants or resident and nesting rare birds within the the proposed building area. So far the survey shows there are none. BUT I have discovered that the reptile survey alone, has to take seven visits, yet only four were carried out in October 2012. Southern Ecological Solutions have recommended in their report, that another seven visits should be made between March-May 2013. Although there have been no signs that we have reptiles at Lake Farm, SES recognises the habitat is in fact ideal for adders, slow worms and common lizards.

The wintering/migrant bird survey was also carried out in October 2012. Species recorded within the proposed school area then were Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Reed Bunting, House Sparrow and Dunnock, though only Dunnock were thought to have nested. The others are believed to have nested in the centre and north of Lake Farm. Other birds of interest that were seen around the site (but not within the proposed school area) were Bullfinch, Whinchat, Stonechat, Whitethroat, Siskin and Chiffchaff. So sadly, the report backs the theory that the birds would not have their nesting habitat destroyed by building a school on that eastern corner. Therefore my only hope of kicking up a fuss is to hope the Skylarks decided to nest within the proposed area this spring. The habitat they prefer does stretch all the way down to Botwell Lane, and this section is part of the proposed school building site.

If anyone wants to look at the Ecological Update Report by Southern Ecological Solutions, I have added a link below.

link to pdf format - Ecological Update Report Feb 2013

Map of Lake Farm showing the proposed school building site

Obviously I will be trying to spend as much time as I can at Lake Farm over the coming weeks, and I will report all my thinking's and sightings on here.

There is only one upside if the building of the school does go ahead, SES have listed a number of recommendations and mitigation's to enable the wildlife stays at Lake Farm, and to possible encourage more. One of these recommendations is that a pond is built. We have a man made pond already on site, but whoever planned that didn't have a clue, as they built it in the driest part of the park and its permanently empty. The SES recommends a new one is built where water gathers naturally, so the flooded willow area would be ideal. The SES also recommends green roofs for all the school buildings, additional hedgerows with native shrubs and trees, log piles, meadow flower planting and a number of bird nest boxes. I only hope if the school is built, that the council listens to the SES.

The local MP, John McDonnell has organised for campaigners to meet GLA members at City Hall this Tuesday 12th March at 1pm. Please see his website and the Save Lake Farm websites below (links below) for more information. Sadly Im working, but I will be following the outcome.

John McDonnells website

Save Lake Farm

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